Airbnb task force crates compromise with city

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) – A website allowing people with extra bedrooms to rent them out to travelers is growing in popularity in Grand Rapids.

It’s called Airbnb (airbnb.com). The website is popular in big cities like New York and Chicago.

However, those who were renting out rooms were doing so without the necessary city permit. The permit needed would cost nearly $2,000. Some people living in areas where Airbnb rooms were being rented raised concerns to the city.

In November 2013, the city formed a task force to reach a compromise between airbnb hosts, the city and neighborhood residents.

Mindy Five has been renting out rooms in her home for more than a year and part of the city task force. She says Airbnb gives people the ability to come to Grand Rapids who otherwise might not be able to. The money tourists save on lodging and they tend to spend on other things.

“It brings money to neighborhoods. It brings money to the economy that isn’t normally there,” said Five.

The tasks force has created new rules to address the concerns with Airbnb:

  • Now in order to rent a room out, a homeowner would have to get a home occupation business license which costs $291.
  • Homeowners must live in the house they are renting a room out of.
  • The city will only issue 200 licenses for room rentals.
  • The city will notify those that live within 300 feet of a home where a licensed is issued.
  • Homeowners may only rent one room and only two adults may stay at a time.

“With the one room rental I do advertise two. I have talked to a few other air b and b hosts, I’m going to speak on their behalf, but it is something a little bit bothersome,” said Five.

Jane Lovett has owned Peaches Bed and Breakfast in Heritage Hill for 20 years. She too was on the task force.

Lovett isn’t against Airbnb’s. She says there is a need for more rooms in Grand Rapids, but she is glad to see that they will be regulated.

“I didn’t feel like there was a lot of stuff I really, really felt like I needed to fight for. Other than the fact that they do need to not fly under the radar,” said Lovett. “They do need to step up and play like a business. That was really the biggest thing that was on my plate. If you are going to be a business, be a business. That’s all there is to it.”

These recommendations from the task force are not set in stone. The city commission will have to vote on them before the ordinance becomes final.

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